I am currently in my second year of teaching photography at the high school level. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997 and have been an ophthalmic photographer for 10 years. The powers that be at my school have decided to keep our Photo 1 class completely traditional and make the Photo 2 class completely digitial. Unlike many other teachers, I don't believe that students need to have exposure to traditional darkroom techniques to really understand photography. In fact, the head of my department at RIT told me that this past fall they admitted the first class of entering freshmen who did not touch the traditional darkroom as part of course requirements. I do agree that in covering photo history traditional darkroom must be discussed and understood. In the end, photography is really about capturing an image with the camera and then enhancing it with post processing. That could be digital or traditional. Many of the traditional techniques can actually be done more easily on the computer.
From what I've seen, most high school (and even many college) classes don't cover some of the more complicated techniques in traditional photography anyway. It sounds like you unfortunately have a very limited budget. I wonder what they really expect you to do or if they just expect some sort of magic. My school will require students to have their own digital cameras. Of course, these will probablly all be point-and-shoots. I would rather teach the SLR camera but that is not my decision to make. Currently we teach traditional photography with point-and-shoots. The teacher who started the program 10 years ago claims that they originally had SLRs for the students to check out but the students broke them all. I said that checking the cameras after each student and making them accountable would solve that problem. Anyway, with only 3 computers, limited software, and 35 students I would recommend making the bulk of the class focus on photo history, criticism and aesthetics. That way 3 students could use the com
puter each day while the rest of the class was learning something else. I would also recommend looking on ebay for digital photo books. I browse the local bookstore and then see if I can get a better price on ebay or Amazon.com. Sometimes I even find something that looks interesting that I didn't see in the bookstore. I also just bought 25 small digital photo how-to books on ebay. It was a set and after shipping came to less than a dollar per book. On a final note, we haven't designed our curriculum yet for next year. It's still in process. I have made a list of what I feel the students should learn and ideas for projects. If you like, email me off list and I will send you my list. As a new teacher in the digital realm I would also be very willing to compare notes and share lesson plans and ideas over the course of next year. Let me know if this would interest you.
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